Behavioural Lapses

October 9th, 2017

We express “shock” at the alleged infidelities of a powerful celebrity (Harvey Weinstein) and those who have kept quiet over decades in public life. Yet somehow calmly ignore the hundreds of “dark secrets”, we have personally witnessed in our own lives and workplaces that have trangressed ethical, and acceptable behaviour, where we have failed to speak up or confront it. To understand “why”, is to better understand how we can live in a more civilised world rather than waste energy judging others.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Friends Reunited

October 6th, 2017

The squirrel in the garden this morning made his usual tour of the more verdant patches of the garden but on his way home, he made a stop at a less verdant area that was once one of his favourite hunting grounds. Turning over a few empty conker nut shells, he found a couple of worms drawn to the surface by the increasing cover of autumn leaves and increasing soil moisture. It reminds me in business, how easy it is to forget the converging value that lies with past friends, past school and university acquaintances, past customers, past investors, past employees, past business partners, past media contacts and so forth, who we have ignored for a good few years. Yet circumstances change in some of theirs and our lives causing our interests to increasingly converge rather than diverge. Yet for most people that is an accidental occurrence. In a world with greater connectivity, there is no real excuse unless you are poorly disciplined. My advice, on a quarterly basis throughout the year, trawl through 2014 and prior email inboxes, client and prospect files, personal photo storage boxes or albums. Write down a list of 40 names. Over a gentle two hours, perform a maximum 3-minute google or social media search, highlighting those that are of “known” and “questionable” converging value. Make a diary note to call the top half of your list (“knowns”), and at a minimum, drop a brief four sentence “re-connecting” email to the rest.

Explain that “I’ve been remiss in keeping in touch but I heard/read/saw something of interest (new job announcement, award, an interview) and thought it might be an opportune time to talk? Recently, I have undertaken ____ assignment/project/deal/experience with ___ (high relevance to the other party)  and it reminded me of our past relationship. I would love to hear your news and what you are priorities are today and share my news.  I am in your neighbourhood visiting clients/friends on dd/mm, would you have 30 minutes or time for coffee/breakfast or lunch?”

If 50% respond, you have 20 people of interest. If you are accurate with 50% in terms of their mutual interest, you have 10 new people of short-term interest. Meet two of them a week, you have 10 valuable relationships to nurture over the next month, where you at a minimum start with some meaningful trust, past affiliation and a discernible interest in how you might be of help.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

The InsurTech Deficit

October 3rd, 2017

Who has done anywhere in the world what you would ideally like to accomplish? Who can help you translate that knowledge into wise decision-making consistent with your own strategic direction and goals? Who can help you acquire the skills, behaviours and expertise to institutionalise that learning?

We have reached a point in certain areas of tech, not least insurtech, where the numbers of entrepreneurs and advisers entering the arena weekly are greater than the number of entrepreneurs and businesses globally progressing from Seed stage to Series C stage. This week in Las Vegas and London, predictably, there will be thousands of promises made. The reality is that there are very few qualified advisers or investors. Certainly those that pass the above “litmus test”. Be careful, very careful.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Peak Performance

October 3rd, 2017

We are 10 years into a bull market run and a UBS Investment analyst at a London event with a global bank’s resources this morning suggests investors in a late cycle phase continue to be “pro risk assets (equities, credit, real estate) with a defensive stance.” Short-hand for “I have no conviction”?! As prudent entrepreneurs, executives and investors, we don’t have the luxury with our own money and endeavours. We must commit to a strategic direction and have convinced ourselves.

2017 Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards

September 22nd, 2017

 

I have had the great pleasure this year participating as a judge for the UK’s 2017 UK National Business Awards. The panel, some of the most impressive figures in UK industry and private equity, recently met with 11 inspiring entrepreneurs to determine the 2017 Inflexion Private Equity Entrepreneur of the Year. While you will have to wait until November for the announcement of the winner, here are some traits of “The Exceptional Entrepreneur”:

  • Self-determined. They don’t rely on others largesse to achieve success. They don’t bemoan their fate, they seek quick ways to change course. They believe their destiny is their own hands, their success is largely a function of applying their own skills and judgement to overcome foreseen and unforeseen obstacles.
  • Enthusiastic. They have tremendous passion and love what they do but most importantly they don’t allow that enthusiasm to evolve into blind zeal. Where zealots are motivated to solely convert others to their way of thinking, they are willing to find compromise where it allows them to accelerate towards their goals.
  • Intellectually curious. They are fast, mobile and quick to react to or even better anticipate competitive trends. The depth and breadth of their intellectual curiosity has enabled them to become people of interest to a diverse audience.
  • Flexible. They are focused on outputs not inputs and willing to switch paths at very short notice. Recognising that their success is not predicated on sticking to pre-conceived ideas rather their awareness of changing customer and market needs.
  • Time and awareness. They know where they are precisely in terms of the evolution of their business and the change agents impacting their markets. Such that they find it easy to make smart decisions today about the future.
  • Clear purpose for their wealth. They have a belief system that easily reconciles the differences between the utility of the financial, intellectual, social and cultural wealth they have created for themselves and their key constituents. While money is important, it is seen merely as the fuel for the life they choose to live.
  • Empathetic. Their emotional stimulae are acutely tuned to the needs of the people around them and the structured and unstructured situations that they find themselves in. Such that they seek to earn others respect ahead of being liked.
  • Stature. What others see, not what they hear or what they read, commands instant respect. They possess an inner confidence that in the company of others, draws people to them and to want to engage with them on a variety of issues, beyond their domain expertise. It has nothing to do with their physical size, how loud they shout or how deliberately they flaunt their success. They are not a “one trick pony”.
  • Time is a priority, not a resource issue. They possess both routine and exceptional discipline and organisation, which enables them to create speed. Priorities are quickly determined and actioned. They don’t procrastinate, nor do they waste time on irrelevant tasks and activities. Nor do they over-staff their businesses.
  • Ego and Resilience. They have learned to “park” their ego. They accept that they will both win and lose on their entrepreneurial journey but the result will never will impact their own opinion of themselves. Such that in defeat they are able to rebound quickly and figure out the best way to achieve that.
  • See the funny side of life. They are able to be both a gracious winner and a gracious loser. To laugh in equal measure at their good fortune and their bad luck. Their default position is to improve the situation, keep smiling and institutionalise the learning, not to seek blame in a crisis. Knowing that is what it is expected of them as a leader.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Brexit Backlash

September 22nd, 2017

Close to 60 million people are daily waking up in the UK and countless millions in Europe are doing the same with the intent of improving they and their families lives. Their accomplishments are hugely impressive and yet we are swamped by a news media that insists on overlooking those achievements and fuelling fear about the consequences of Brexit. Why? Is it that a great many of those working in, and owning, media companies are themselves failing and using Brexit as a soft excuse for their own poor judgement and declining skills? Is it that their enthusiasm has morphed into blind zeal? As with all zealots they seek to convert everyone and find compromise impossible to accept? (OK, so Britain will stay in Europe on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday to satisfy them.)

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Warning Light!

September 22nd, 2017

 

When an entrepreneur or his/her Adviser overlook or cannot clearly articulate in 3 or 4 sentences, the greatest anticipated weaknesses in their business growth plans (markets, products, technology and relationships) given competitive market trends, you have a plan that won’t survive serious investor scrutiny. To pretend otherwise is to start driving a car where the wheel nuts lie strewn on the ground.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Great Service Begins At The Top

August 15th, 2017

 

If you aspire to or are a pre-eminent global service business, shouldn’t the CEO’s communication and feedback systems with its’ customers reflect its’ pre-eminence and branding? Here is a recent example of personal response times from constructive customer service letters to European CEOs:

3 days, in person Ewan Venters, CEO of grocer, Fortnum & Mason

14 days, in person Nigel Wilson, CEO of insurer, Legal & General

135+ days, zero response Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO of budget airline, easyJet

645+ days, zero response Keith Gibbs, CEO of insurer, Axa PPP Healthcare

795+ days, zero response Rickard Gustafson, President and CEO of airline, SAS Group

Letter writing might be unfashionable in certain quarters but when a customer today makes the effort to put pen to paper, it is a common sense assessment that they are serious about their intent to point out a superior or underwhelming experience. Based on my anecdotal research, a great experience buying a tin of biscuits will elicit a 4x faster response from the CEO than buying a cumbersome life insurance policy, 45x faster response from the CEO than being stranded late night in a desolate European airport or 219x faster response from the CEO to acknowledgement of proactive service in a healthcare insurer! Why would a CEO’s office operate like that unless it is seriously disorganised, it doesn’t hold itself accountable for the promises it makes to its’ customers or it is simply arrogant?

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

Wealth Managers Day Of Reckoning

July 28th, 2017

 

The need for financial advice is at unprecedented levels, what is being increasingly exposed is the “competency and passion deficit” in many private wealth advisory firms. With greater complexity and ambiguity in their private clients’ lives, there is an increasingly unmet need for both increased “speed” (real-time decision-making) and higher “quality” (better performance, lower cost) resources. You cannot achieve that without new thinking, abandoning irrelevant activities and new approaches to regulation and compliance. A great many market practitioners question the sustainability of the robo-adviser retail advice model (Betterment, Wealthify and others) on account of their client acquisition costs but what is undeniable is that without old thinking and systems, they have a huge advantage for those seeking low-cost advice. For small and mid-market firms, who pride themselves on traditional advisory propositions, I confidently predict the next 12 months in N. America and Europe will see record consolidation and exits. The real question for the owners of these businesses, is the shortest route to your “ideal future” a friendly merger or sale now or driving on further into even more hazardous conditions with close to zero visibility?

© James Berkeley 2017.

 

A Time And A Place

July 27th, 2017

 

What is the price of privacy and silence in a workspace? Money and demand are abundant from small medium enterprises wanting more flexible offices, and investors hurtling after them with bags of moolala. WeWork, the co-working giant, announced today that it has raised $500 million from SoftBank and Hony Capital to fuel its growth in China. I am helping another ambitious group charm professional investors with their Mandarin Oriental-style idea and secure north of a $100 million backing. Indeed, I write this sitting in my own upscale serviced office located in the heart of London’s West End.  Yet there is one drawback that almost all of these co-working/serviced office operators have not properly addressed. Co-working is great until you want privacy and silence. You struggle like hell to find it. Hip canteen or dining areas, noisy club lounges, and expensive, clunky meeting rooms with time-consuming booking systems don’t provide real-time access to the seamless professional environment and image that your most discerning clients expect. Perhaps in a techie world but sorry, not in a professional services or financial services firm. It is like asking an Englishman to adhere to a relaxed dress code at a wedding, it is carnage. I am sorry but I neither want to work in or be seen as an underpaid HR manager ghosting in a Starbucks mid-morning. Whether we like it or not, informality in a business setting has its’ limits on how we think about ourselves, our productivity and our profit.   The operator, who can truly provide a workspace with “flexible” privacy and silence is really the one to throw serious money at.

© James Berkeley 2017.